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Petraeus was 'right' to resign as CIA chief: Panetta
by Staff Writers
On Board A Us Military Aircraft (AFP) Nov 12, 2012


Panetta on staying as Pentagon chief: 'Who the hell knows?'
On Board A Us Military Aircraft (AFP) Nov 12, 2012 - Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, a longtime veteran of Washington politics, sidestepped questions Monday about whether he would quit his post as expected and retire.

"Who the hell knows?" Panetta joked when asked if he would stay on for another four years through President Barack Obama's second term.

He acknowledged he was anxious after a decades-long career in Washington to retire to his native California.

But he suggested he would remain on the job at least in the short-term with major budget issues and strategic decisions on the war in Afghanistan pending.

"It's no secret that at some point I'd like to get back to California to my home and the institute," he said, referring to the think-tank he founded and currently led by his wife.

"But there are a lot of challenges right now with regards to defense issues in Washington," said Panetta, citing planning for a troop drawdown in Afghanistan and a looming deadline on the country's budget and debt.

Panetta, 74, served as CIA director for two years before moving over to the Pentagon in 2011. He was an influential Democrat in Congress for years and then served as budget czar and chief-of-staff under former president Bill Clinton.

David Petraeus was right to resign as director of the CIA over an affair because the position requires "personal integrity," Pentagon chief Leon Panetta said Monday.

Panetta, who led the Central Intelligence Agency for two years before moving to the Defense Department, said Petraeus's resignation was "a very sad situation to have a very distinguished career like that end in this manner."

"My heart obviously goes out to him and his family. But I think he took the right step," said Panetta, speaking to reporters aboard a US military jet bound for Australia.

"I think it's important when you're director of the CIA, with all of the challenges that face you in that position, that personal integrity comes first and foremost."

Asked if Petraeus had begun his affair while he was still the US general commanding international troops in Afghanistan, Panetta said he did not know.

Accounts from other officials and media reports say the retired four-star general began his relationship with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, after he left his post in Kabul.

Asked about complaints from lawmakers that President Barack Obama's White House had failed to inform Congress the FBI was investigating emails between Petraeus and his lover, Panetta admitted those concerns needed to be examined.

"That's another issue I think we ought to look at," said Panetta, who served as a member of the House of Representatives for years.

"As a former director of the CIA, and having worked very closely with the intelligence committees, I believe that there is a responsibility to make sure the intelligence committees are informed of issues that could affect the security of those intelligence operations."

It was vital that the spy agency not be derailed by the scandal, he added.

"Having served there, in the first two years of this administration, I think it's really important to continue to have the CIA to stay on track, doing a job that's absolutely essential for our national security," he said.

"They have a very important mission focused on intelligence and intelligence operations and I think it's very important to get someone strong, capable and dedicated to be able to continue that effort."

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